cover image Lila


Marilynne Robinson, read by Maggie Hoffman. Macmillan Audio, , unabridged, 8 CDs, 9 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-4272-3011-9

Robinson’s novel, set in the fictional Iowa village of Gilead, trades in stillness and restraint. The challenge for recording an audiobook with this material is capturing its subtlety. There is no large cast of characters, all needing individual voices; there is only a tiny ensemble, anchored by the tormented drifter Lila, a young woman who seems to finally take root when she marries an elderly preacher. Hoffman, an experienced audio narrator, resists the temptation to simplify these rural characters with overdone country accents. The narration is unadorned, allowing Hoffman to direct attention to Robinson’s spare prose and the main character’s private anguish as Lila sifts through her past. This is a lonely and pensive book, and the wrong narrator could have killed the introspection with showy acting. Instead the performance is fittingly understated, at times seeming lost in thought, its mood as reflective as the novel itself. A Farrar, Straus and Giroux hardcover. (Oct.)